Mercedes-AMG is blowing full steam ahead on expanding their impressive range of sports cars throughout the coming years, so said head of the Mercedes-Benz AMG division Tobias Moers during a press conference in Geneva earlier this year. I had the pleasure of attending that particular press event during the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, where among other cars the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet made its worldwide debut. After the recent unveiling of the new S-Class Cabriolet, the new C-Class convertible is the second open-top four-seater to roll off the Mercedes assembly line this year.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet joins an already comprehensive C-Class family: the C-Class sedan, shooting brake (estate), and coupé. Seeing that all three variants also boast three different AMG models each, it should come as no surprise that Mercedes-AMG similarly brings three AMG versions to the new C-Class convertible. The standard recipe consists of the twin-turbocharged V6 badged as C 43, previously known as the C 450, and of course the C63 and range topping C63 S models powered by AMG’s V8 biturbo engine.
This brings the total number of AMG models to 12 for the C-Class alone. Do the math by adding up all AMG models across the broad spectrum that makes up the complete Mercedes-Benz model range and you should come to the conclusion that the total amount of AMG’s currently on offer is closing in on the number 50. The 2017 C-Class Cabriolet AMG is perhaps the ultimate symbol for AMG’s recent hunger for expansion, the icing on the cake of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz ‘year of dream cars’.
The market for premium four-seat convertibles isn’t exactly buzzing with ‘affordable’ options, let alone the niche where they come with engines that stack up against the mighty V8 biturbo from Affalterbach. Who is this car for and what is it capable of? I was invited to find out and traveled out to an area that allows for both dynamic driving and plenty of open-top action; the North-East of Italy where the Dolomites meet the Adriatic Sea.
All is familiar and recognizable under the hood. The engines available are exact copies of what we’ve seen on the other C-Class models. In fact, it has been just about half a year since a colleague of mine was privileged to test drive the 2016 C-Class AMG Coupé in Spain, the car that the convertible is clearly based on.
The V8 biturbo conventionally comes with with an output of 476 hp (350 kW) and 650 Nm of torque, and is closely related to the example that powers Mercedes’ range-topping AMG-GT. For customers that desire even more power, the C63 S variant should suffice with a production of 510 hp (375 kW) and 700 Nm of torque.
The high output ratings of both variants translate to on-road performance as follows: the Mercedes-AMG C63 Cabriolet takes 4.2 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h and the S model takes only 4.1 seconds. As per usual, when you’re having fun on the Autobahn the speedometer won’t go beyond the 250 km/h, unless you have the AMG driver’s package installed that allows for speeds up to 280 km/h.
Now you would expect a considerable sanction in terms of performance compared to the C63 (S) sedan and coupé, but that is barely the case. The s-version coupé does 0-100 in 3.9 seconds and the C63 S sedan takes 4.0 seconds, an almost non-existent difference. The convertible’s drag coefficient is set at an impressively low 0.28, courtesy of the low and wide aerodynamic body structure. Besides boasting an aggressive stance and intriguing looks, the car’s design remains highly functional. The flared wheel arches at the front illustrate that nicely, being responsible for a 64 millimeters wider front and 66 millimeters wider rear compared to the conventional C-Class Cabriolet.
While the new coupé design in general is still growing on me, I have never had any doubts about the front of the C-Class AMG. It is arguably the most angry-looking front you will see in the segment, and above all its proportions and sculpture are about as refined as it gets. The design stands out even more depending on the choice of lacquer and contrasting accents. Personally I think a combination of white paint and black accents does best justice to the car’s design. I therefore opted for the rather glamorous C63 S finished in ‘designo cashmere white magno’ with contrasting gloss black and carbon fiber elements.
I feel like the matte glance of the exterior paint brings out the car’s strong contours very well, from the two distinctive lines on the lengthened full aluminum hood to the strong design lines along the side of the convertible. The black twin-blade radiator grille, air-intakes and front splitter portray the desired contrast at the front. Black accents continue along the side with the respectable side skirts, black mirror caps and standard 19-inch multi-spoke AMG wheels. The rear is complimented by a carbon fiber spoiler lip, rear-diffusor and blacked out tailpipes.
What most clearly differentiates the convertible from the coupé is of course the soft top. On this particular car it is finished in black to match, but customers can also choose dark brown, dark blue or dark red. The soft top opens and closes in 20 seconds by holding the designated button in the mid console, and can do so at speeds up to 50 km/h. The convertible also comes with AIRCAP as standard, a highly sophisticated draught-stop system that significantly reduces wind noise and wind flow inside the cabin, allowing for a more enjoyable drive. The system combines a ‘cap’, finished in the exterior color, that extends above the windshield making sure that air flows over the cabin rather than inside, with a wind deflector extending behind the rear seats.
AIRSCARF is also optionally available, despite the recent fuzz around a patent that temporarily made selling the AIRSCARF option impossible in Germany. I was told that the matter is now resolved and that AIRSCARF will soon be available in Germany again. The system is mounted near the headrests of the seats providing heating around the neck of the driver and front seat passenger, making open-top driving a possibility at any time during the year.
The luxury four-seat interior is revealed once the soft top is folded down, and is by all means no bad place to be. It is perhaps not the most spacious, especially at the rear two seats, but technically it can seat four people. The slight headroom issue that I encountered in the back of the C-Class coupé however does not pose a problem in the convertible with the top down. Boot space is still acceptable with 40 liters less than the 300 the coupé offers once the top is down. Extra luggage space can be created by folding the two rear seats down.
The car’s interior can be specced to the customer’s desire with a range of premium leathers and inside finishes to choose from. My test vehicle was finished in AMG nappa black leather, which contrasts nicely with the car’s exterior. The carbon fiber mid console adds some extra flair to the otherwise highly luxurious interior. The standard sport seats are nice, but if there is one interior option that I would spec it is the AMG performance seats that are a tad more comfortable and provide the much needed lateral support.
Starting on the Adriatic coast near the city of Trieste, the cars were nicely lined up near a picturesque resort. After a light lunch I got in the driver seat of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet and brought the mean sounding V8 biturbo to life with the switch of a key. The weather seemed to be in our favor, so the soft top was folded down just as easily by the flick of a button. We soon got on our way towards Trieste and took in the breathtaking scenery along the elevated coastline. Once navigated through the city, we soon crossed the border into rural Slovenia where quiet country roads carving through the mountains invite for dynamic driving.
I selected sport plus from the dynamic select menu and an immediate answer followed in the form of a solid downshift. Step on the throttle and the car is catapulted forwards with an immense boost and highly satisfying soundtrack at once. The suspension of the car turns rock hard and ensures a stable road presence, for which you pay the price comfort-wise when the roads are not in optimal condition. Despite the condition of some of the roads we encountered, AMG’s ride control with adaptive dampers provided me with a good sense of control.
The AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-Speed transmission has improved over time and shifts are both rapid and furious. The upshifts come with a loud bang, the downshifts with an occasional burble. There is plenty of feedback from the steering wheel as well, the car steers in corners sharply and up to royal speeds the car is kept in line by the electronic limited-slip differential installed at the rear axle. Modest and controlled slips through sharp bends is what makes this car so much fun to drive, but on the other hand just as unpredictable when both the weather- and road conditions are not ideal. With that in mind, carbon ceramic brakes are an option I would not pass on.
To put things into perspective, I was offered to take a C43 AMG coupé for a spin after we arrived at our lunch stop in Slovenia. A short loop of 20 minutes was just enough to get a sense of how the less prestigious version handles. The 367 hp and 520 Nm strong V6 Biturbo is not unfamiliar to me either, and I am actually quite a fan of this particular engine. Once on my way I instantly felt that there was more of a balance. This can be greatly attributed to the fact that it comes with 4matic AWD as standard, which absolutely boosts confidence when speeding through corners. Despite a light drizzle of rain earlier, the wet roads were no match for the C43. It is especially in these conditions where it might get tricky driving the RWD C63.
This does not make choosing between the AMG models any easier and let’s be honest, there aren’t really any matching alternatives from other brands in this segment at this moment. This is where it comes down to what you are looking for, and of course, what budget you have. That there is a market at all for the AMG versions of the C-Class cabriolet is something that I definitely do not take into question. Customers that are in the market for a premium convertible presumably won’t use it as a daily driver, so if you have the money for a fun car on the side you might as well opt for an AMG.
Overall my experience with Mercedes-AMG’s brand new convertible has been fantastic. The C63 S convertible brings high-performance open-top driving this much closer to those that are looking for a powerful and premium four-seat convertible but are not willing to spend more on similar cars in higher market segments.
As far as choosing between the C 63 and C 43 goes, it really comes down to budget and prestige. The C43 is more balanced, has improved handling capabilities and a lower price point compared to the brutal C63 models. The C63 is more prestigious, arguably has even better looks and packs the bigger engine. With the bigger engine comes a better sound although it has to be said that the sound from the V6 is quite impressive too. Prices are yet to be revealed, so there is still plenty of time to decide. The 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Cabriolet and all other versions are expected to hit the market at the end of this summer.
I believe every roadster must come equipped with an equivalent version of the AIRCAP to make our open top drives fun and peaceful. Well, my drop top was so annoying that I had to spend money on a wind deflector to get noise-free rides. Luckily, the Backblade windscreen has never disappointed me ever since I installed it on my Cabrio by keeping my cabin hush and turbulence-free.